The Complexities of a ‘Guaranteed National Income Law’

The Complexities of a ‘Guaranteed National Income Law’

by Gordon Jeremiah Berry

On January 8, 1964, former United States President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a “War on Poverty” during a State of Union address. At that time within the United States poverty levels peaked from around 22.4% in 1959 to around 19% during the time of the 1964 address. Poverty was and still is a major concern for most Americans as well as around the globe. Varies countries have developed programs to help alleviate the suffering of those in poverty.

Image Credit: Wiki Commons
Image Credit: Wiki Commons

Since that time over $20 trillion U.S dollars has been spent with little relief to those that find themselves is such desperate circumstances. From 1964 until today, within the United States the poverty level has never gone below 10%. Around $1 trillion is spent annually on more than 126 different anti-poverty programs, just in the United States!

Recently, policymakers have debated about passing a new “Guaranteed National Income” both to simplify the currently laws and programs, but possibly in an attempt to even reduce costs. In the past several prominent leaders have promoted ideas that would encourage enacting such a law and that such a law may be necessary and beneficial to most individuals. Economist Milton Friedman once said “The proposal for a negative income tax is a proposal to help poor people by giving them money, which is what they need. Rather than as now by requiring them to come before a governmental official, detail all their assets and their liabilities and be told that you may spend x dollars on rent, y dollars on food, and then be given a handout.” Martin Luther King once said “There is a great deal that the society can and must do if the Negro is to gain the economic security that he needs. Now, one of the answers, it seems to me, is a guaranteed annual income, a guaranteed minimum income, for all people and for all families of our country.” Former President Richard Nixon also said “This national floor under incomes for working or dependent families is not a “guaranteed income.” Under the guaranteed income proposal, everyone would be assured a minimum income regardless of whether or not he was willing to work…A guaranteed income would undermine the incentive to work; the family assistance plan that I propose increases the increases the incentive to work.”

Recent movements to pass a Guaranteed National Income 

So far, the only country to hold a vote on such a law is Switzerland. Even though the law was not passed back in June of 2016, research suggests that only a mere two percent of workers would stop working. Under the basic income plan, sixty percent of workers would keep their jobs, thirty percent of workers would work part-time, and eight percent would do something entirely different and not what we think of now as a regular job, such as preforming a few side jobs for relatives and neighbors such as household repairs and landscaping.

The main reasons for why the measure failed was said best by Luzi Stamn, a member of parliament for the Swiss People’s Party. “Theoretically, if Switzerland were an island, the answer is yes. But with open borders, it’s a total impossibility. Especially for Switzerland, with a high living standard.” “If you would offer every individual a Swiss amount of money, you would have billions of people who would try to move into Switzerland.” Also blamed for the initiatives failure was that the wording was vague, adding a constitutional change to “guarantee the introduction of an unconditional basic income” but with no mention of amounts.

In Finland, there is a film called “Grundeinkommen” by Daniel Hani and Enno Schmidt that is a documentary that is a fast-moving thorough analysis of Basic Income, where it is documenting its history. In the United States a number of “think tanks and several researched articles, such as the one by Michael Turner of the CATO Institute called “The Pros and Cons of a Guaranteed National Income”. It highlighted that “attempts to solve problems in one area would raise questions in others.”

In conclusion, as long as societies have a global concern for combining interconnected issues of how they should handle immigration concerns, the appropriate view of both ethnic and religious minorities, how they should both handle and view the banking system, then an environment of political stagnation where very little if anything will be done to help those that need it most will continue, thus creating a scenario of attempting to mix iron (the law makers) and clay (the people) within the countries that are fighting for a right to coexist.

About the Author

Gordon Jeremiah Berry, is an avid reader and intense researcher. Mr. Berry looks for the deeper meaning behind all things. His favorite saying is “Love must always win out!”

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